On integer division
1 Integer division
The integer division of an integer , the dividend, by another non nul integer , the divisor, is the determination of two integers: the quotient and the remainder such that and . With this definition, there are two results if is not a divisor of . To make the result unique, one has to impose an additional condition.
Three such conditions are in use. But first a word about the notations used in this document. is the real division of by . When an uniquifying condition is implied by the context, is the quotient and is the remainder of an integer division. When the uniquifying condition is not important is the quotient and is the remainder.
When defining the uniquifying conditions, we’ll also make use the two functions:
1.1 Truncating division
The truncating division can be defined in two equivalent ways: one relating the value of with the result of the real division (which explains the name we use), the other binding the sign of with the sign of the dividend:
This way of uniquifying the result of the division brings us some properties: That is a lot of symmetries around the value ; for the quotient, they are the same one that the real division has. These symmetries implies that is special (for instance, there are integers giving when divided by when there are only such integers for other quotients).
1.2 Floor division
Again, two equivalent ways of defining the division:
The properties we get are: We loose some of the symmetries around the origin, but now the remainder is periodic and is now behaving like other numbers.
1.3 Positive remainder division
There is only one condition to define this division:
The properties are: Again a periodical remainder and less symmetries that for the truncating division.To illustrate, here are some examples:

Mathematicians tend to define the version they want before using it if it is important. Programmers often don’t have that luxery and have to make with what the system they use provides them. It happens that processors and languages seem to have standardized on the floor division even if the other two (they differ only for negative dividend, which seems rare) appear to be more in use among the mathematicians. Exceptions exist, some languages even provides two remainders (the truncating and the floor one).
Going from one version to the other isn’t difficult, but it can be tedious. It is just adding or substracting one to the quotient, and adding or substracting the divisor to the remainder depending on the sign of the dividend and the divisor. As an example, here is an algorithm computing the floor division assuming that the truncating one is available (in practice the most common case):
2 Long division
In this section, we’ll see how to divide a digit number whose digits in some base are by a digits number whose digits are using only numbers less that .
The algorithm we’ll use is the long division, the pencil and paper method by which we have learned how to do division. We’ll consider that there is an additional digit for : , currently its value is and it just helps to take into account to fact that such division sometimes produces digits and sometimes ; it will be needed in the final version of the algorithm anyway. The algorithm is thus the following:
At the end, is the quotient and the remainder is .
The only difficulty in applying this algorithm is getting the next digit:
for which we known that .
Well, it is easy to do it if :
In the other cases, as we are using numbers less that , the obvious idea is the use

(we are temporarily dropping the indices). Let’s try to find out how near we are from the true value. First we deduce:
Then bound out the other direction:
so if then . Knuth [1, section 4.3.1] using
shows that then is sufficient.
In order to tighen our bound on , let’s try to impose :
This last condition can be computed without overflow if and (if it isn’t, the condition is false).
We’ll then have
If one consider that can differ of only in the last digit, one see that to be more precise, one need to take all the digits into account.
Let’s modify our initial algorithm using the above properties. To take advantage of the fact that if then , we’ll multiply both dividend and divisor by (the dividend will need the additional digit we have already introduced, the divisor won’t need another digit, but its first digit will be ) and divide the remainder by the same value at the end. We’ll first use then adjust until (the condition in the algorithm is a little more complicated in order to prevent overflow). Then we are sure that is at most one too big, so after having subtracted from we check if the result had a borrow and add back in that case. The result is algorithm 4.
2:
3: if then
4:
5:
6: end if
7: Now determine each digits.
8: for do
9: Get our estimate
10:
11:
12: Refine if needed
13: while do
14:
15:
16: end while
17: Do the substraction
18:
19: for do
20:
21:
22:
23: end for
24: If there is a borrow, that mean the refinement wasn’t enough to get it right, add back and adjust .
25: if then
26:
27:
28: end if
29:
30: end for
31: Finally undo the adjustment of the remainder
32: if then
33: Use algorithm 3
34: end if
For even , the refinement loop will be executed at most twice, so unrolling the loop should be considered in an implementation.
With odd, it is possible to get (for example and ). But as the additional condition we use to ensure doesn’t depend on , unrolling the loop twice would be enough, the add back step will handle final adjustment.
References